TORONTO - Ryan Hamilton's shootout winner may have given the Toronto Marlies the win, but the point they gave up to the Moose left them on the outside looking into the American Hockey League playoff picture.
The Marlies were officially eliminated from post-season contention despite beating Manitoba 2-1 on Saturday.
"We wanted to win," Marlies goaltender James Reimer said when asked about his team's mentality heading into overtime, knowing their season was lost. "It doesn't matter where you are in the season, we're athletes, we're competitive and we want to be the best at our jobs."
Tim Brent had the lone goal in regulation for the Marlies (32-24-11), while Guillaume Desiens scored for the Moose (37-32-7).
Reimer was impressive in making 23 saves, while at the other end Cory Schneider stopped 30 shots.
Manitoba led 1-0 after a tightly contested first period. Desbiens converted a power-play marker at 11:39, just a few seconds before Toronto blue-liner Juraj Mikus was due to step out of the penalty box.
Rookie Jordan Schroeder's wrister deflected off a Marlies defender to Desbiens in a high slot full of bodies. But the Alma, Que., native managed to get a shot on net and squeeze the puck through Reimer's pads for his 18th goal of the season.
The game was played close to the vest in the second period as well, with the best chances coming on power plays, two for the Marlies and one for the Moose. But neither squad was able to score and Toronto held Manitoba to just six shots.
"We basically did everything but score," said Brent when reflecting on the game. "We could have used a couple of bounces."
The pace of play picked up in the third period as Toronto played with more desperation.
"I was happy with the way we played," said Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins, who admitted it was a tough game to get up for after losing to Manitoba the night before to really put the Marlies behind the post-season eight ball. "I was proud that they came out and played hard, instead of just going through the motions."
The Marlies broke Schneider's shutout bid with a short-handed goal 11:23 into the third period to tie the game. Brent stole the puck at the Manitoba blue-line and skated in on a 2-on-0. With the puck rolling he decided to keep it himself and slid it between Schneider's legs for his 11th goal of the season.
"I didn't even really see (Hamilton) there until afterwards, so I probably should have passed," Brent said, "but it squeaked through Schneider's legs."
Toronto pulled netminder Reimer with the score tied 1-1 with 1:40 to play to avoid allowing Manitoba the single point, but was unable score. The Moose began overtime in the playoffs, the Marlies began the extra frame on the outside looking in.
"We still wanted the full two points tonight," said Eakins when asked about his team's attitude heading into overtime. "But our guys were good, in the overtime they were still pushing, they wanted to win the game and in the shootout they were ready to go."
Toronto was 0-for-3 on the power play, while Manitoba went 1-4 with the man advantage.
In the shootout Hamilton scored what turned out to be the winner. Reimer stopped three of four shots, while Schneider stopped one.
The Marlies were playing their third game in three days and are off until Friday, when they begin the final weekend of their season in Rochester. Manitoba travels to Hamilton for games Sunday and Tuesday against the Bulldogs before finishing the year at home with games Friday and Saturday against Peoria.
While for all intents and purposes the season is over for the Marlies, Eakins pointed to current Toronto Maple Leafs who began the season in the AHL as a job well done.
"I think we've done our job from the development side," he said. "We've got some players going (the NHL) way, and now it's time for the next year's to come in. We're planting seeds and growing hockey players here."
Notes: QMJHL player Phillipe Paradis made his Marlies home debut after signing an amateur tryout contract April 2. . . The Marlies were playing their third game in three days, losing to Hamilton on Thursday and Manitoba on Friday. . . NCAA star Schroeder continued his point-per-game pace for Manitoba after signing an amateur tryout contract March 20. The 19-year-old has three goals and seven points in seven AHL contests.